Saturday, 29 September 2007

Photos from previous years

Credit to Cass from Out There Biking tours...great if you don't fancy racing through the amazing scenery!

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Alex

Friday, 28 September 2007

10...9...8...7...6...5...all systems green...4 days to go

Yep, pretty much all stuff that needs sorting is done and all I have to occupy me now are random fears of the unknown. I have copies of all imporant documents (in triplicate and a set at home!) plus useful addresses, phone numbers, race T+C and course / event info. Its the impotent waiting that kills me, I plan on having a lazy Sunday with a lie in, some meditation and possibly a movie (must check the in-flight selection so I don't double up on films!)

I have read a rather disparaging review on last years event which hinged on the writer not getting the idea that it was an adventure race not 9 back to back short-course XC races! The weather, navigation, sleep deprivation and wildlife all come in for criticism but what really got me was the dig he had at the Indian Army Team (who won it!) who instead of riding down a technical descent at 2mph shouldered their 20kg bikes and ran past people riding...hell its a race FFS! Probably won't see the name-less whinger on the GDR start line anytime soon!

Endura have sent me a lovely pair of FS260 bib shorts and a pair of MT500 3/4s to thrash and report on, initial examination show that they are probably the nicest shorts I have ever seen. I can't wait to try tehm out and I hope to have at least one day cold enough to warrant the 3/4s!

The bags are packed (and under wight!) Bike is boxed but not sealed as I need to make a final packing check. I did discover that NO LIQUIDS are allowed in hand luggage to/from India! This lead to a rapid re-packing to loose the mossie spray, sun cream and glasses cleaner from the carry-on bag. I have a change of clothes and some other important stuff in the carry on so if I do loose the main bag I at least have something to change in to and keep me going!

OK, off to bug employees for money :)

Alex

Monday, 24 September 2007

Glitch central...

Had a slight issue with my "waterproof" jacket and trousers at the weekend...note the " " round the word! I knew I would have to give the trousers a once over with Grangers (or Blacks own brand eqiv) but I thought I hade the jacket covered. After 30-40mins the rain was soaking through the sleeves and running down my arms and starting to come through the shoulder seams. The jacket is only designed as a windproof shell with a little water repellancy so even with the extra proofing its out of its comfort zone. I am going to pony-up and get the Montane Velocity 100% wind, water and yak proof jkt today as being damp at the FoD with a hot shower and tea 10mins away is not the same as 10,000ft and 50km to go!

The karrimor hydropack will need proofing to as its not very water repellant and the rain cover does not fit! Nice one guys! Its big enough to fit over the bag and has an elasticated draw cord but as the pack is tapered and rounded it just falls off. I guess I could tie it on some how in a real emercency but its less than ideal. I will add some bin bags to my list to keep my kit dry.

On a plus note the bike was fine but anything other than sustained climbing or tricky singletrack on 34:20 fixie is sloooow. Thank you Mr White Ind for the freewheel!

The Chocolate Fish clothing is great and the new long sleeve stuff is just that! I am 6'2" and have long arms, most cycling tops are just long enough...the CF has plenty to spare! I would say that they are 1-2" longer than the longest sleeves I have (Endura LS top / Rapha Fixed jersey) I wear a medium in their stuff and the body is fitted with not too much to flap in the wind and long enough to avoid a builder-bum when I bend over so throw in the looong arms and I am a happy camper :)

A big thanks to those people who have just sponsored me, the Johnny A's crew and Alex...I am really raking it in now! Thanks!

OK, off to work.

Alex

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Its the final countdown...with out the big hair+spandex

Well, ok a little bit of lycra!

Not long to go now, I have done a test pack of pretty much all my gear and it fits in the carry on bag (Karrimor hydropack) and holdall. Bike plus shoes / helmet / tyres / tools will go in the bike box with extra padding and some zipties / parcel tape for the return trip. Only a couple of little things to get now like a plug adaptor and waterproofing spray for my over trousers.

My goodie bag of merino wool has turned up from Amanda at Chocolate Fish, another great t-shirt (dark red/grey this time) zip-neck LS top and the Endevour heavy weight LS top / fleece that it double the thickness of a regular winter jersey and £100 less than the Rapha Training Top! Great for chilly nights around camp at 3,000m! Some more socks, prototype boxers and leggings finished of the package. I already have some Mt Cook merino T's and LS tops for casual wear (shorter in the body, baggyer fit) so pretty much 70% of my kit is merino!

I would like to say a huge thank you to Amanda for supplying the kit to some one she has never met and you should all buy some thing from CHOCOLATE FISH as its great kit made in NZ at the old IceBreaker factory.

I got a nice ride in on Sunday in the Forest of Dean including a couple of big-ish climbs and both Dowies and the Skull (looking for Becca's rear light that fell off!) as well as the Lawnmower...I still find freewheeling weird through singletrack but I do like the ease of catching (small) air off roots and steps!

Kit on the bike is 100% sorted now and I have a Cateye front light instead of the old 9LED one. The new one lasts 30hrs on 4AA's and throws a pretty good beam, 2 on the handlebars and you could ride off road pretty well! I am half tempted to try and rig up a helmet mount when I get time. I am pretty taken by these though form a Lancashire chap in Oz warning excessive FLASH content! Even offering constant-current battery setups soon! The biggest nightmare with home-brew lights is the casing / mounts and these are so sweet and tiny :)

ALex

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

20 years....

Just realised that I have been mountain biking for 20years this year. I started when I was 11 with a Dawes Tracker (18 gears, plastic canti brakes) although I had been bombing about on my BMX and 24x1-3/8" racer before then. The freedom it gave me was great as I was able to escape to far flung corners of Gloucestershire and spent many rainy afternoons with a cup of tea and slice of fruit cake pouring over maps planning routes or looking for places to explore.

Looking back its a bit weird that I have kept it up despite how much I have changed in that time, I guess cycling just rings true with some thing deep inside of me that, say, playing the guitar or RPG games never did. I can happily ride alone, with friends or in a big faceless group of strangers; on the road or off and in all weathers. It has given me great memories, taken me all over the planet and given me employment for the last 10years.

A little riding in the last week but not as much as I hoped but my fitness continues to improve. Last nights ride up Cleeve had me leave the house in a foul mood after a busy and stressful day at work and at the bottom of the climb I really did not want to be there...so I analysed why I didn't and found that it wasn't anything to do with the riding; work, staff, accountants and food but not actually about riding. I completed the climb as fast as I ever had but at a much reduced effort and only a 2-3min recovery time. Loosing the baggage really helped.

Still not got back in to standing meditation but I plan to start today and try and build it up slowly. Standing for 5mins does not sound hard but maintaining the "knees slightly bent, back straight, arms loose" really starts to burn after 60seconds and I get the knee shakes. The trick is to not tense your legs but rather relax and let the tension out....but not fall over!

Amanda has emailed to say the new Chocolate Fish merino is in and she will send it off soon. I can't describe how great it is to have people helping in this way and since ditching all my synthetic cycling tops I have had no regrets...wool all the way! Look out for a write up on the clothes once I have had a chance to put them through their paces.

OK, plan for the day is: Mediation, hotel in Delhi, wedding insurance and a bike ride (surprise!)

Best get on with it...

Alex

Monday, 3 September 2007

More in the press...

I am in the local press again but importantly with a link to the Justgiving page so I hope for some more donations! I am trying to get hold of Nelli at Star 107.4 for a follow up interview and mush chase BBC Radio Glos about my email last week...its almost as exhausting as the training (sort of!)

Speaking of which I am planning on being at the Ashton ride tomorrow as it is around my home turf of Cleeve Hill...7pm at the Golf Club y'all. Zero "proper" riding last weekend but plenty of Xtracycle work hauling food and stuff so I hope that all counts towards it and offsets the food and beer consumed at Matt and Katies wedding!

I now have my travel insurance (with race coverage) and am seeing the Dr tomorrow about a letter confirming my (un)fitness. Pretty much wraps up all the prep and kit which is lucky as I am skint! I need to book 3 nights in hotels and the prices seem to waver between £9 and £159 a night! Shimla and Manali are pretty pricy but I hope the organisers can hook me up with a deal somewhere (or keep me out of the worse ones!) Once I have them sorted I can see what I have left for food/entertainment/sightseeing and gifts.

I also plan to get back into practicing Zhan Zhuang (standing meditation) as the race approaches to keep me focused and calm. I did it quite a lot last year partly due to house move / overseas trips and hassle at work but have got out of the routine. I need to set my alarm a little earlier and spend 5-10mins each morning. Its amazing how much more focused, calm and energetic you are after so its really worth making the effort for.




Alex